1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Olatz Gonzalez Abrisketa

PhD,University of the Basque Country, 2004
MA,University of Duesto Bilbao,1997 

Brooks Hall 301  


Dr.  González-Abrisketa is a professor of social anthropology at the University of the Basque Country, and is currently housed as a visiting scholar for the spring semester of 2016 in the department of Anthropology of the University of Virginia. Her current research is focused on male solidarity and recognition in late capitalist societies. More specifically, she is interested in the enacting processes of recognition in which men are involved through the mutual scrutiny of objects, and the ways in which those processes build and reinforce fraternal bonds.  During her stay at the University of Virginia, Dr. González-Abrisketa has been working on the ethnographic possibilities of these topics, as well as the theoretical framework for this research project.

Dr. González-Abrisketa’s current research interests derive from her previous work on the Basque sport of pelota, which she has discussed in several publications and a film. Her book, Basque Pelota: A ritual and aesthetic, originally published in Spanish in 2005, has been translated and published in English by the Center for Basque Studies of the University of Nevada in 2012. In this book, Dr. González-Abrisketa  approaches the game of pelota as a “social drama”, showing its historical implications in the transition between political orders from medieval times to the modern era, and its centrality in the continual invention of the Basque cultural imaginary today. Her 2013 article “Cuerpos desplazados: Género, deporte, y protagonismo cultural en la plaza vasca” was declared Best Article on Iberoamerican Anthropology by the Network of Iberoamerican Anthropologists. A similar version of this article can be read in English as part of the edited volume Playing fields: Power, Practice, and Passion in Sport, edited by Mariann Vaczi in 2013.

Her ethnographic film titled Pelota II, developed as a second part to Jørgen Leth’s 1983 film Pelota, deals with one of the most remarkable peculiarities of the sport: the selection process of balls. Each ball is different and through careful examination, players’ assess how they will behave in the game. From the workshop to the court, the film follows the balls and the obsessive search of the protagonists to find the best.


Basque studies; Sports as social dramas or modern proto-agonic rituals; Feminism and gender studies; Male bonds, fratriarchy and recognition; Visual anthropology and filmmaking

Department Faculty

Ira Bashkow
Associate Professor
Frederick H. Damon
Eve Danziger
Professor and Chair; Affiliated Faculty: Linguistics Program; Cognitive Science Program
Lise Dobrin
Associate Professor & Director of the Interdepartmental Program in Linguistics
Carrie Douglass
Professor & Director of Undergraduate Studies
Gertrude Fraser
Associate Professor
Richard Handler
Professor & Director of Global Development Studies Program
Jeffrey L. Hantman
James Igoe
Associate Professor
Ravindra Khare
Professor & Director of the Center on Critical Human Survival Issues
Adria LaViolette
Associate Professor
Daniel Lefkowitz
Associate Professor
George Mentore
Associate Professor
Rachel Most
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Academic Programs & Professor
Fraser D. Neiman
Stephen Plog
David A. Harrison Professor of Archaeology
China Scherz
Assistant Professor
John Shepherd
Associate Professor
Mark Sicoli
Assistant Professor
Margaret Smith
Director & Curator, The Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection
Roy Wagner
Patricia Wattenmaker
Associate Professor
Kath Weston